For those suffering from clinical depression, it often feels like there is no hope in sight–yet a new study from researchers in Finland say the way you eat could help defeat it for good.
Studying over 2,000 men and their eating habits, researcher Anu Ruusunen says that those who opted for a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish were less likely to suffer from depression–and the contrary was true for men with less than stellar eating habits.
“The study reinforces the hypothesis that a healthy diet has potential not only in the warding off of depression, but also in its prevention,” says Ruusunen, who believes that diet may play a more important role in controlling depression symptoms.
In the study, Ruusunen set out to see if any links could be drawn between a person’s eating habits and rate of depression–and her hypothesis was valid. Men who reported eating a healthier diet of vegetables, fruits, berries, poultry, fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products–foods often recommended as part of a healthy diet–often had lower rates of depression, which researchers believe occurs because the brain receives more nutrients to thrive.
On the other hand, subsisting on processed or sugary foods, such as chips or cookies, deprives the brain of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy, making people more susceptible to depression.
“Honestly, I’m not sure eating more healthy is going to directly impact your mood,” says John M. Grohol, Psy. D., founder of Psych Central. “It will, however, impact your overall general health, which does have an impact on your mood. So even if it’s not a direct relationship, it’s something to think about next time you find yourself stopping into McDonald’s for the 5th time this month (or week!).”
How to Eat More Healthy
The evidence is pretty clear: Eat healthy and you’ll have less depression to boot. But doing so is easier said than done–especially if you’re a busy professional with little time to spare. So how do you make a healthy diet work out for you?
“If you can’t stand the taste of broccoli, then vowing to eat it more often is pretty unrealistic,” says Leanne Beattie, a health and fitness writer for Spark People. “But if increasing the number of vegetables you eat each day is one of your goals, start by finding a few different ones that you can painlessly work into your diet.”
To start off, Beattie recommends introducing new foods slowly and aiming for variety–such as leafy greens, sliced bananas, or fresh berries. While the changes may seem slow to start, evidence shows it helps people adhere to new diets better, and therefore increase the likelihood they’ll stick with it.
“As you adopt this new style of eating, you will find that your food preferences will gradually change–when you cut out high-sugar, high-fat goodies, your cravings will actually go away in time,” says Beattie. “Your body wants healthy food!”
Readers: How healthy is your diet? What are some changes you could make to eat healthier?